Well it is the beginning of a new year and I was thinking what to display and I thought about a pot I hadn’t taken out of its box for almost a year – a Heian Kouzan pot. I have spoken about this potter before and you can find his book Yusen & Kouzan in this blog. When I decided to write today about his pots, I immediately began to think of all the photos I could post – ah how American. I seem to be instilled with this American view that more is better. It struck me how this was likely the antithesis of how Mr. Kouzan might have felt. Let me show you the pot and then why I think my original idea of so many photos was so wrong.
The first thing that struck me about this pot when I was evaluating purchasing it, other than it was an actual Kouzan pot, was the simplicity of design. This is a very strong pot but with a soft edge which is very difficult to do. I believe you typically see pots that are very strong (masculine) or very soft (feminine) and this often is a deciding factor in picking a pot for a tree. A feminine pot for a Japanese Black Pine with a thick trunk just wouldn’t make sense nor would a strong masculine pot for a delicate Japanese Maple.
This photo simply can’t show you how nice the glaze is on this pot. Whereby a number of new Tokoname pots are close to the same color profile they are often, in my opinion, heavy in glaze. I mean by that there is very little color variation across the entire surface of the pot. Look at this more detailed photo to see what I mean. Notice the variation in glaze. I believe Kouzan used a brown underglaze or possibly a clear top glaze after applying the bluish glaze. I’m not a potter so unsure of this so if any reader can tell please post and let me know. I do like this variation of glaze. Even though this pot has never been used and is over 50 years old it still has a look of antiquity. Many would say this pot should be stored outdoors so that it begins to weather and to take on even more age and perhaps if the water wasn’t so bad in Dublin I would (if I did it would turn white in our water); however, I’m going to respect that the original owner of this pot (Daisaku’s father for BIB members who know him) decided to keep this pot in its original Kiri wood box and so therefore so will we.
The other thing that strikes me about this pot are the feet. I first started studying feet on pots by observing how Ryuen made his pots. You can see examples of his pots at this link: www.ryuen.com. Kouzan’s feet on this pot find just the right combination of elegance while at the same time conforming to both the soft but yet still strong nature of this pot.
So back to how this post started. I have many photos of Kouzan’s work and this post could have contained dozen’s of photos, but I believe keeping this post to two simple photos is more in line with this pot’s design. Kouzan’s reputation was built on making principally shohin pots of the highest quality using beautiful designs. Many of his pots are covered in scenes or paintings and therefore are quite expensive. Most of his pots retail from $1000 to as high as $5,000 from what I have seen at auction. I highly recommend purchasing the book Yusen & Kozan to discover the artistry of Heian Kouzan. It is rare to find a potter who style is so distinct that one can determine that it is his pot without looking at the chop mark; in the days ahead I will publish a post on chop marks.
Well I hope you enjoyed this short article on Kouzan and that you will one day see his works in person. KJ and I are off to Kokufu in February and no doubt there will be a few in the show and a few more at the Green Club.
Our best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous New Year!
Sam and KJ
P.S. For those interested the stand is made by Rikizo.